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raceAhead: The Olympics’ Divide

August 4, 2016, 12:00 PM UTC

Hi, I’m Jeremy Quittner, a writer for’s Venture channel. I’m filling in for Ellen McGirt this week while she’s on vacation.

Jeremy Taiwo is one of the lucky 550 people competing this year on the U.S. Olympic team. The games get underway Friday night in Rio.

Based in Seattle, and a student of Latin American studies and global health at the University of Washington, Taiwo will be competing in the decathlon, one of the most physically challenging events of the Olympics. Athletes must perform in ten different track and field events, including running, jumping, pole vault, javelin, and discus.

Yet some might say Taiwo comes by his athletic abilities honestly. The 28-year-old is the son of Joseph Taiwo, a former triple-jumper who played for Team Nigeria in the 1984 and 1988 Olympic games.

His mother Irene is an attorney who got her law degree from the University of Washington, and is originally from Colombia.

As the son of immigrants and of mixed-race heritage, Taiwo hopes his performance in the Olympics can build bridges and make a positive statement about race and immigration. Those two issues have been especially polarizing this year, with numerous incidents of police violence involving African Americans, and in the presidential election, where immigration reform is a top concern for both political parties.

“Race is a really big thing in our country,” Taiwo says, adding he prefers to focus on things that bring different groups together. “Where we find ourselves a lot of the time is trying to make differences, but I want to celebrate commonalities between groups.”

Certainly the Olympics is a global forum to celebrate through sports the things that unite us, regardless of race and nationality. This year, athletes from more than 200 countries will compete for coveted gold medals.

Check out the full story here about how Taiwo used crowdfunding site GoFundMe to finance his journey to the games.

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There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.
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